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MLS's SuperLiga start: not perfect, but good
by Ridge Mahoney, July 26th, 2007 7AM

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With four games in the books the SuperLiga ledger reads: two MLS wins, two ties, eight goals, two ejections, 98 shots, and 63,405 fans.

Well, it's a start. A good one. Not perfect, but good.

On the second night of competition Wednesday, defending MLS champion Houston beat Club America, 1-0, and Morelia rallied while a man down to tie D.C. United, 1-1.

Houston prevailed on a Nate Jaqua goal set up with a nifty move and low cross by Stuart Holden, who was deservedly chosen by the TeleFutura television crew as Man of the Match. The Dynamo controlled play for long stretches and outshot Club America, 16-5, but were denied a larger win by the sharp goalkeeping of Armando Navarette and some wasteful final touches.

Club America's preseason form revealed itself many times, notably on three occasions in the second half when players under no particular pressure simply passed the ball out of bounds. Navarette saved a point-blank header from Jaqua and twice Brian Ching headed over the crossbar as Houston pressed for the second goal that would have more fairly reflected its superiority.

Quiet matches from Dwayne DeRosario and a hobbling Joseph Ngwenya stilted the Dynamo attack, though DeRosario awoke midway through the second half. His dribbles and sharp cuts forced the tiring Club America players to foul, but he passed up a shooting chance to try a difficult pass that was intercepted, and shot over the bar from outside the penalty area.

Logic would indicate the MLS teams, which are in the middle of their seasons, would be fitter and stronger down the stretch than their Mexican counterparts, but such hasn't been the case on two occasions. The Galaxy did reply after conceding an equalizer in the second half to beat Pachuca, 2-1, Tuesday, but earlier Dallas had squandered a 1-0 lead to end up tied, 1-1, with Guadalajara, and Wednesday night D.C. - despite a man advantage - conceded a spectacular goal to Diego Martinez in another 1-1 tie.

D.C. took the lead in the seventh minute when Christian Gomez curled in a free kick awarded for a foul on Emilio Luciano, who later in the first half ballooned a shot over the bar with the net empty.

Referee Courtney Campbell sent off Morelia's Luis Landin in the 58th minute after he'd bounced off the ground in retaliation to a hard foul by Bobby Boswell and shoved the D.C. defender. Boswell's savage kick could have merited a red as well, but Campbell instead pulled out the yellow.

Wilson Tiago nearly tied the game by drilling a low shot that came back off the base of the post, but in the 79th minute Martinez collected a superb switching ball from Adrian Aldrete on the right flank and arrowed a shot into the top far corner. Morelia keeper Moises Munoz preserved the tie by diving to push away an Emilio header, and Martinez cleared away a header by Gomez in the final seconds.

Drew Moor of FC Dallas incurred the same fate as Landin Tuesday when he pushed Hector Reynoso after being felled by the Guadalajara defender. Moor signaled that Reynoso had elbowed him, yet referee Walter Quesada sent him off, and as Moor trudged off the field Guadalajara fans pelted him with debris: a staple of unruly behavior that MLS and SUM had better address as soon as possible with beefed-up security and threats of ejection.

The Dallas fans and players were the ones enraged when Quesada allowed Olvera's goal to stand despite the ball clearly coming off his arm before he drilled it into the net. Yet on Tuesday the Galaxy's Alan Gordon appeared to control a ball with his upper bicep when settling a looping cross from Landon Donovan before tucking it into the net for the first goal. Carlos Batres officiated in that game and from a distance neither he nor his assistant could clearly see how Gordon brought down the ball.

Picking a best goal out of the eight scored in the first round weighs the wonderful volley Arturo Alvarez notched for FC Dallas, Gomez's classic free kick, Martinez's stunning strike, and Olvera's precise finish. Not an easy decision.

The second round of SuperLiga matches will be played this weekend, with the Los Angeles Coliseum and Galaxy hosting a Guadalajara team strengthened by the arrival of a half-dozen senior and U-20 players who were given extra time off after playing in the Copa America and youth world championships.

Houston, which drew 18,112 for its game with Club America, is quite capable of exceeding that number when it plays Morelia Sunday if the home fans turn out again. D.C., which drew 13,335 to RFK Wednesday, has a Sunday afternoon date with CA.

 



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